Founding Partner, Bob Elfant shares a lifetime of Philadelphia real estate wisdom
Robert “Bob” Elfant has thrived in every facet of the local real estate industry from sales, to property management, development and finance. He is the founding partner of Direct Mortgage Loan Company and its parent company Elfant Pontz Properties. He also founded Elfant Wissahickon Realtors--the largest independent brokerage in Philadelphia; and he was a founder and director of Valley Green Bank (now Univest Bank).
Bob is a Philadelphia guy through and through. He got his start in real estate in ‘73, working at his father’s “mom and pop” on North Broad. A self-proclaimed “Philly sports nut”, Philadelphia is the heart and soul of Bob’s businesses, investments, and philanthropy. He believes in the long-term view of investing, and finding “win-wins” for his community, his business and his clients.
Here, Bob gives us insight on how he succeeds in the Philadelphia real estate market and how to spot a good investment.
On managing multiple, interconnected businesses
The fact that I've been diverse in my business interests has been one of the pillars of my years of success. It makes it interesting, and it makes it very challenging. Some people are better off just doing one thing and being good at it. I'm blessed that I'm able to do more than that, but it can be complicated and taxing with a lot of pressure at times. The key for me over the years is having developed really terrific partners.
On what makes good partnerships
My partners are very, very hard working. They're incredibly loyal, incredibly trustworthy. We all have each other's backs and I don't think there's anything I wouldn't do for them. They’re all competitive and they’re better than me at some things. (I don't care if they're better than me in a lot of things.) For example, Jared (Jared Pontz--President and Managing Partner of DMLC and Elfant Pontz Properties) is the driving force behind the fact that we are who we are today.
On what makes Direct Mortgage Loan Company special
We're fast, we get back to people quickly, we analyze deals quickly. We meet every borrower, we look at every piece of real estate. We can tailor it to the needs of the borrower better than a conventional source of financing because we're making all the decisions, and we're lending our own money.
On analyzing borrowers and win-wins
You really want to make sure that people are going to be successful with your investment dollars. It may be trite to say, but you want to do something that's going to be a win-win. If you're getting into a transaction where the borrower won’t succeed, you shouldn't be doing the deal. Yeah, in the short term, it might work, but in the long term is that person gonna come back to you again? I don't think so. You have to ask: ‘how much are your holding costs? What’s your net profit? Do you really want that amount of risk for that amount of profit?’
It's a small enough town where you can know people and be known. And if you do things the right way, it's a small town where you can rise up the ladder of success without having to sacrifice your soul, travel great distances, or have millions and millions of dollars. I’m all about Philly--my sports teams, my business, my investments, my charitable involvements. It's all about Philly. I think it's a great town, and I love it. But it ain't perfect.
On how to get started in real estate
Talk to people; find a mentor. Work whatever connections you can. Don't be afraid to fail. Don't be afraid to get a “no”; don't be afraid to lose the deal. It's all about the long-term, if you can afford it. If you make your decisions based on the long-term, you're going to build your business, you're going to have a great reputation, and you're going to create something that you can be proud of.